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M ward - a tragedy waiting to happen?

Thursday, September 14, 2017
By Sonali Telang

While the Development Plan 2034 is still on the table for consideration by the State Government, residents of M ward, Mumbai have been requesting for a special consideration for both M ward east and west, which are infamous as the most hazard prone areas of the city.

In the objections to the Development Plan by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), activists have pointed out that being highly explosive and a largely polluting source to the city, these two wards should be planned separately and in a special way.

For years, both the wards has seen continuous industrial growth with small scale chemical and industrial establishments, and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) with a number of operating reactors, two major refineries being HPCL and BPCL coexisting side by side and the Tata Thermal Power Station with numerous high pressure boilers operating simultaneously. "The presence of an active Earthquake Fault Line close to the M west and M east ward makes it capable of generating moderate to high intensity earthquakes. Moreover, with rapid emergence of chemical industries along with unchecked high storeyed residential towers – owing to periodic increase of FSI areas and proliferating slum population like Cheetah camp – and a dumping ground in the vicinity, in case of any accident the whole area is at major risk," said H K Clubwalla, Chembur resident and a social activist who has worked as project manager and planner for 35 years.

All this industrial and residential accumulation exists within a congested 15 kilometers radius which has worried citizens in Chembur who feel they are literally sitting on a ticking time bomb. It has also been observed that the areas come under the aviation flight path zone which makes it further dangerous in the event of an aviation disaster, especially with the existence of numerous H T electric sub stations in various residential building plots. "There are many unauthorized high rises within the area, exceeding the restricted height limit in the aviation flight path zone and the authorities have been allowing more buildings to emerge.

“Also the Wadala-Sewri areas are hardly 4 kilometers away from these two wards. In case of a disaster it can spread southwards, along the eastern coast which has oil storage installations and warehouses till the naval docks," remarked Clubwalla.

The activist has also written repeatedly to the State Chief Minister, the latest communication being in August, but has not yet received any response neither from the civic body or the State Government.

Residents have demanded a detailed risk and pollution analysis including the magnitude, intensity and distance of the area in case of an unfortunate accident by an independent and experienced external agency. "It is important to first of all show the existing site conditions, even the minutest details of the site in the development plan. We have repeatedly asked the authorities about what kind of site study and impact assessment they have but never got an answer from them," added Clubwalla.

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